I and my colleagues at the Pacific Institute have worked on California water issues for more than a quarter of a century. It is therefore no surprise that we get asked on a regular basis by friends, journalists and colleagues what we think about the efforts underway to resolve the problems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and in particular, about the proposed massive tunnel project to divert water from the Sacramento River to the conveyance aqueducts south of the Delta.
The purpose of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposals, ostensibly, is to resolve the joint problems of 1. ensuring reliable water supplies south of the Delta, and 2. restoring the damaged ecosystems and fisheries damaged by the current design and operation of water infrastructure. These are supposed to be “co-equal” goals. Will the new proposals achieve this? I don’t know what to think, because I cannot get the critical information necessary to make an informed judgment. Here are some questions that should have been answered long ago:
Thirsty California may get a smidgen of rain this coming week, but it is not likely to change what, so far, has been the driest calendar year in recorded history.
No rain at all fell in San Francisco in October and only 3.95 inches has fallen since Jan. 1, the smallest amount of precipitation to date since record keeping began 164 years ago, according to the National Weather Service.
Things can still change, but the storm predicted to roll in Monday and Tuesday has already petered out, according to forecasters, who are expecting only sprinkles, if that.
"It’s absolutely dry," said Bob Benjamin, a National Weather Service forecaster. "We just went through October where there was no measurable precipitation in downtown San Francisco. That’s only happened seven times since records started."
Numerous constituents Wednesday urged Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael to rethink his opposition to a bill that would grant the California Coastal Commission the power to fine violators of the state’s Coastal Act.
Created by voter initiative in the 1970s, the commission’s mission is "to protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline."
Levine received the free advice during a public hearing that he convened "on protecting California’s coast," at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies in Tiburon. Before inviting public comments, Levine listened to presentations by three panels of experts. The panelists included Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey, Coastal Commission executive director Charles Lester, leaders of environmental organizations who expressed admiration for the commission, and two lawyers who are currently involved in suits against the commission.
Environmentalists are claiming victory after federal fishery regulators on Sunday tightened fishing restrictions amid evidence the sardine population is in steep decline.
The 7-6 vote brought unusual drama to a meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which met over the weekend in Costa Mesa. California and Washington officials led the charge to set 2014 sardine fishing limits at the lowest level in a generation.
"This decline is fairly rapid," said Geoff Shester, California program director for Monterey-based Oceana. "A lot of people have started to compare it to the sardine collapse of the 50s and 60s."
Jeremy White, CAPITOL ALERT
Barring a sweeping policy change or the introduction of new technology, California will fall short of its goals to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The good news is that California remains on pace to cut emissions to their 1990 level by 2020, a goal set out in a 2005 executive order issued by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the subsequent goal of thinning greenhouse-gas trapping emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 currently appears to be out of reach.
via Capitol Alert: California won’t meet 2050 emissions goals, report says E.U. For a more technical discussion, see this article.
Quietly, without fanfare or fireworks, a land-use issue was resolved this past month in Santa Rosa.
You probably didn’t hear about it because it didn’t involve protests or lawsuits or contentious hearings before the City Council. It was settled with reasonable discussions among sensible adults looking to find a solution that would work for both sides and, more importantly, for all residents of Santa Rosa.
We want to share that good news.
At issue is the community connector bridge across Highway 101, a project that has been planned for several years to provide a safe way for people to cross the freeway without using their cars. The bridge would create a new connection between Santa Rosa’s east and west sides, between Santa Rosa Junior College and Coddingtown, between northeast Santa Rosa and the SMART train station in the northwest on Guerneville Road.
For the past almost 40 years, Forestville has fought one development plan after another on downtown property that runs along Front Street in the heart of downtown. Now, with the support of Sonoma County’s Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, the Forestville Planning Association, and a local investment group that includes the Bartolomei family, and a Yes vote from the Board of Supervisors, Forestville finally gets a plan everyone can live with.
Eight and one half acres of land will now be approximately 50% park and preserved wetlands with native habitat, and 50% developed land for mixed-use commerce. The land will also accommodate Sonoma County Regional Park’s trailhead to the West County Trail directly running into Forestville’s downtown. That a real boon to the parks, users of the trail, and downtown businesses.
Marine scientists are scrambling to determine the extent and cause of a disease that is killing starfish along the West Coast, including Sonoma County.
The affliction, called sea star wasting disease, has killed up to 95 percent of the stars in some tide pool populations ranging from southeast Alaska to Santa Barbara in a manner similar to scenes from a horror movie.
“They essentially melt in front of you,” said Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab.
Most people feel helpless when it comes to impacting the outcome of an event. Yet they DO have influence, and they CAN effect change. What it takes is having enough people to be heard – and solid information to gain respect..
We changed the outcome of a tree removal in my neighborhood by contacting people who had the power to stop the operation before long-term permanent damage occurred. In the process, we learned that laws and systems in place are not enough, and that oversight is essential to protect our environment from ignorance.
Our Back Yard
River Drive is a small neighborhood at Hacienda Bridge in Forestville. What we came to call the “Hacienda Timber Harvest,” without intervention, would have been a redwood clear-cut on two lots going down to the river on both sides of Hacienda Bridge. This brought many in our neighborhood and community together in outrage over what Clear View tree service was doing with a Cal Fire “exemption” permit and little oversight.
How did this happen?
How could a timber harvest occur along the banks of the Russian River, which has been designated critical habitat for three species of salmon? How could this be permitted when multiple agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on studies alone to save the fish and their habitat?
Both lots were recently purchased by out-of-area owners…people who don’t live here, or intend to live here…and who appear to be ignorant of local environmental protections. Both have applications to raise these original summer cabins along the river using FEMA flood mitigation assistance funds. Both contacted Clear View tree service to remove a few trees they considered a fire hazard, and in their way of intended construction.
A plan to reroute a popular bicycle trail around a proposed gas station and market on the western edge of Santa Rosa was criticized as not doing enough to protect bicyclists but was approved anyway Thursday by the city’s Planning Commission.
In a 5-1 vote, the commission signed off on plans to build the station, market and one-bedroom apartment along the Joe Rodota Trail at North Wright Road just south of the Fulton Road and Highway 12 intersection.
Most commissioners felt the developer had found a creative solution to the problem of possible conflicts with bicyclists by diverting them behind the station along an easement on the property.
But some bicycle advocates and Commissioner Vicki Duggan felt the project wasn’t doing enough to protect bicyclists along what is already a problematic portion of the trail linking Santa Rosa to Sebastopol.